Durban (dûrˈbən) [key], city, now part and seat of eThekwini metropolitan municipality, KwaZulu-Natal prov., E South Africa, on Natal Bay, an arm of the Indian Ocean. Durban is an industrial center, a major seaport, and a year-round resort. Industries include sugar refining, shipbuilding and ship repairing, petroleum refining, fishing, automobile assembly, and the manufacture of food products, paint, chemicals, fertilizers, soap, footwear, and textiles. Sugarcane is grown on nearby estates. Durban is the main port for the Witwatersrand and is connected by railroad with Johannesburg and other cities on the Rand. Its main exports are manganese and other ores, coal, sugar, and corn. Corporate parks abound in its suburbs and Durban International Airport is nearby. Persons of Indian and Pakistani descent make up c.40% of the population.
The site of Durban was visited in 1497 by Vasco da Gama, who named it Rio de Natal; British colonization began in 1824. The city, first called Port Natal by the British, was renamed Durban in 1835 after Sir Benjamin D'Urban, then governor of Cape Colony. In 1842, Boers (Afrikaners) besieged British troops in the Old Fort (now a museum) there. Gold was discovered in Johannesburg in the 1880s, and Durban became the chief commercial city of Natal and a major port after 1887, when the bay was dredged. The city was the site of the national convention (1908–9) that paved the way for the creation in 1910 of the Union of South Africa. Durban is the seat of the Univ. of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, and the Durban Univ. of Technology. Also there are the Durban Museum and Art Gallery, the Old Courthouse and Kwa Muhle museums, an aquarium, Greyville Race Course, and the botanical gardens in the hilltop suburb of Berea.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.